Participants at this year’s annual Country Radio Seminar got a double helping of Hot Apple Pie during the closing night’s traditional New Faces Show – a serving on their plates, accompanied by some hot licks and rousing harmonies from the group. The band’s name is appropriate, since their music features all the down-home elements of an American classic: bluegrass, country, rock, and some swampy blues, with a dash of R&B thrown in for extra spice now and then.
“Hot Apple Pie is the perfect name for a band, isn’t it?” said Trey Landry, drummer for the band. “This is 100% natural, no artificial ingredients.” The other two members, guitar player Keith Horne and lead vocalist/keyboardist/accordionist Brady Seals would no doubt agree. The three came together very organically after Seals had tried his hand at several solo projects, and they quickly gelled into a musically diverse collective.
Landry had been on the road with Louisiana accordion great Wayne Toups, when he met Rodney Crowell on Delbert McClinton’s annual blues cruise. Crowell offered to help him get started when he moved to Nashville, and later introduced him to Seals, who was searching for a drummer for his band at the time.
Virginia native Horne had been playing in a jazz band before moving to town at the behest of the famed Wooten Brothers, who gave him a job playing with them at their weekly jazz gig. A multi-instrumentalist like the others, Horne toured with Waylon Jennings, Peter Frampton, Chaka Kahn, Trisha Yearwood, and others before auditioning for Hot Apple Pie and joining the band in 2003.
The group’s catalyst, Seals had spent five years as part of the platinum-selling country group “Little Texas”, but his roots went much deeper than that into the musical landscape. Hailing from a music family that included country star Dan Seals, pop star Jimmy Seals (of Seals & Croft), and country songwriters Troy and Chuck Seals, Brady knew early on that music was in his blood.
“I grew up in Fairfield, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, and there’s the country aspect of things, with all the people from Kentucky coming across the river there and settling into the southern part of Ohio, and you’ve definitely got the roots of old school country there, bluegrass country. I grew up Pentecostal, and there was gospel music happening, and in Cincinnati there’s a huge rock culture too, and you had to take notice and dig it where I was coming from. And so I loved rock and roll growing up. I loved dance and pop and R&B. But there’s no question that country is my roots, even though I love all kinds of music, it’s just the nucleus for me when it comes to music. I just keep on coming back to it.”
During his tenure in the mid-90’s as part of Little Texas, Seals began honing his writing skills, eventually penning two huge hits for the band, “My Love,” and “What Might Have Been.” But the toll of 322 days on the road at a time was hard on him, and he elected to leave the band and pursue a solo career that never quite took off. Though he charted six singles from his two solo albums for Warner Bros., he couldn’t shake the long shadow of Little Texas and had a hard time gaining acceptance on his own.
A move to L.A. in 2000 and a pop/rock album fueled his creative fire, and he returned to Nashville with a renewed spirit and began co-writing with Crowell, Mike Reid, and others on the Row. “I just kept on hitting it, hitting it, hitting it, hitting it, until it happened, you know. I was certainly disappointed with how the solo career went — it didn’t go as I expected it to go. But there were so many great things that happened with that, you know. With resistance you gain strength, and it was such a great learning experience for me. Just learning about the business from a solo aspect was priceless, and now being in a band, I was just so glad I went through that first.”
He began thinking about a new project that would be fresh and edgy, yet still somewhat mainstream, and soon the Pie’s ingredients were taking shape. Seals’ wife, Lisa Stewart, suggested they contact her former producer Richard Landis, and soon Landis was bankrolling some sessions where the band cut four songs that ended up on their debut Dreamworks CD: “We’re Makin’ Up,” “The Good Life,” “Annabelle,” and their latest single, “Easy Does It.”
Seals recognized they were onto something immediately, and hopes the band’s sound will continue to evolve as their levels of musicianship are woven more extensively into their sound. “I think that every project has its own little thing about it,” says Seals. “It’s whether or not it breaks through, and whether or not the public gets it and digs it or not, but for us, having all the influences we have and playing all the different instruments we do definitely sets us apart from the pack. And I think we did capture the energy and the excitement we create live in the studio. But now mind you, it’s our first record. We’re still experimenting, and we’re just now starting to pull out some more stops, like in the studio we didn’t use Keith, our bass player, playing steel just yet. So we’ve kind of got that ace up our sleeve, you know, all the other
instruments we all play.”
The band has some surprises in store for fans as they continue playing around the country, and Seals feels that’s just part of the fun of being in a band as musically diverse and talented as this one. “We’re in the process of revamping our set list. We do covers and I’d like to see us do “What I Like About You” as a punk kind of thing. We do “The Shape I’m In,” the Band song, and I’m gonna pitch this idea of doing a Bob Marley medley right in the middle of the show, ‘cause there’s a song we have that talks about going to the islands, and we want to take them to the islands, yeh mon! There’s also another old Steve Earle song, “Hillbilly Highway,” we’re thinking about putting on our record and we open our show with it – it’s just a great country rocking song. We’re still writing for our next record right now. And you know, the great thing with us is there’s always another instrument to be learned, another song to write, and we feel that’s the beauty of this band, you know. And we’re looking forward to it.”
For more information on Hot Apple Pie, visit www.hotapplepie.net.